Hours after the annual School of the Americas Watch protest ended at the Fort Benning gate last year, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois said the Maryknoll headquarters called and notified him that Pope Benedict XVI had expelled him from the priesthood.
With the election of new Pope Francis, Bourgeois said Friday he is working with an attorney to appeal the decision that expelled him from being a Catholic priest for the next 40 years.
“He signed the order in November and we are appealing it right now,” Bourgeois said of Benedict. “We hope the new pope will be more open to women in the church.”
Bourgeois, 74, said he was stripped of his position after he publicly supported the ordination of women priests. While actions were considered against him, Bourgeois said he was asked to recant his support and remain silent on women ordination, but he refused.
“I said what you are asking me to do would violate my conscience, would be a lie,” he said. “They wrote and said I was causing grave scandal in the Catholic Church. When Catholics hear that word scandal, they do not think about the ordination of women but about the thousands of U.S. Catholic priests who have sexually abused over 10,000 children.”
The former priest’s views on what he describes as an injustice against women were published in a March 20 editorial in the New York Times.
“Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” he wrote. “What I have witnesses is a grave injustice against women, my church and our God, who called both men and women to be priests. I could not be silent.”
Bourgeois said sexism is a sin like racism.
“And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against others, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created everyone of equal worth and dignity,” he wrote.
Bourgeois said he’s never met the new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, but he was in Argentina in 2006 for the 30th anniversary of the coup that led to the “Dirty War” in March 1976. When the war ended in 1983, about 30,000 people had been killed or reported missing.
“When we were there for the 30 anniversary of the coup, the president announced before thousands shame on the military for what they did to our people,” Bourgeois said. “The president said shame on the Catholic Church for being silent.”
Pope Francis will be judged by his works but he’s optimistic, Bourgeois said.
“I’m feeling better about this pope,” he said. “I’m feeling humble. He is much closer to the poor and he is calling for simplicity. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
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